It is hard to believe that Labor Day is right around the corner. During these very different times, you can still throw an entertaining end of the summer party – just keep some specific safety measures in mind!
If someone had told me last year that we would still be quarantining, social distancing, wearing masks, and restricting social outings this year, I would never have believed them. In a time where no one has ever experienced or understood the impacts of a novel disease, I do not believe anyone was prepared for the impact this pandemic would have on our lives.
Like the rest of the world, we have made some major changes to our lifestyle. Long gone are our date nights, large parties with friends, family get togethers, or meeting up with other couples for a fun night out of dinner and drinks. We have had to find different ways to socialize with others, while respecting and mitigating the risk of infection.
For our family, maintaining social wellness during a pandemic means outdoor entertaining with small groups of friends or family in a socially distant setting. Over the last year and a half, we have mastered “COVID Entertaining” in order to create some sense of normalcy and continue interactions with friends and family.
So today, I wanted to walk you through my perfectly safe and responsible pandemic Labor Day party. Let’s get started!
Labor Day Cookout Menu Ideas
No end of summer party would be complete without a BBQ! Grilling outside with friends and family is a great way to maintain social distancing while enjoying your company.
1. Main Course
Hamburgers and Hotdogs
Obviously you need your traditional hamburgers and hotdogs at your “All American” Labor Day BBQ.
In my opinion, the best beef to use for hamburgers is ground chuck. Make sure to season with salt and pepper before creating your patties. And the best hotdogs are all beef.
Having a whole station for toppings is a great way to spruce up your standard hamburger/hotdog menu. Don’t forget to include sautéed onions, mushrooms, and peppers; different cheeses; an array of mustards, ketchups, and mayos; lettuce; tomato; pickles; and sauerkraut for the hotdogs.
I think it’s always fun to add an additional “not as common” main dish to a BBQ to really raise the bar. This recipe for ribs is one of my favorites. It’s easy and so delicious!
2. Side Dishes
Delicious, easy, and one of my favorite recipes. You can serve this side dish at room temperature or even cold. A great tip is to make this corn salad the day before your end of summer party – the longer it marinates in the dressing, the better it tastes!
INSANELY delicious take on a Labor Day classic! My sister-in-law also makes this recipe for her family, and it’s always 100% a crowd pleaser – guaranteed. You can definitely leave the lobster out, and the recipe is still unbelievable; however, don’t be crazy! The lobster is what makes it such a special side dish!
This potato salad is another recipe my family and I love. There’s nothing wrong with store-bought potato salad, but this homemade version is something special. I also like to make this side the day before my Labor Day party to make my party planning less stressful.
Macaroni Salad, Chips, Salsa, Salami, and Cheeses
These items are all great things to ask guests to bring.
Social distancing tips:
- These types of items do not need to be homemade and are easy for guests to pick up on their way to your get together with family and friends.
- Serve these sides in small, individual cups for an easy and safe grab-and-go option.
3. Labor Day Desserts
I always leave dessert to the guests. People love to bring dishes to any end of summer party. Make your life easier by asking everyone to bring dessert!
For me, one exception to this rule is that I do like to have the freezer stocked with different ice cream flavors. Most guests will bring cakes and/or cookies. Delicious ice cream is always a great compliment to any party desserts. You can also get all the fun toppings and set up an ice cream bar where guests create their own sundaes.
PLUS, it’s Labor Day! And what’s more American than ice cream?
5 Social Distancing Tips for Entertaining in a Pandemic
1. Stick with Outdoor Entertaining
I know this tip seems obvious, but it’s something worth mentioning. Make sure everyone feels comfortable by hosting the party outside where you can easily keep a safe distance from others.
2. Spread Out Multiple Serving Tables
Set up multiple serving tables so people do not feel compelled to walk inside to make a plate for themselves. I like to set up 2 or 3 tables of food and drinks with different recipes that are spaced out all over the backyard.
Having multiple tables prevents a bottleneck effect where everyone is lining up for food at the same time. Your guests can walk around at a safe distance to serve themselves.
3. Portion Foods Individually for Easy Self-Service
I love this tip! And I can really use my creativity with this one.
Veggie and humus appetizers, pasta sides, and almost all other traditional side dishes can be individually served in small, single-serve cups. Avoid large bags or bowls of food that require grabbing, like chips, to ensure safety and comfort among your guests.
4. Space Out Seating Across Your Backyard
Safe seating is important so people can comfortably go to different areas and maintain the 6-foot distance guideline.
Understand that everyone has different anxieties, stresses, and fears about the virus. Where some people do not fear infection at all, others want to wear masks all the time and follow all social distancing guidelines. Everyone should feel comfortable without being judged. Make sure there are plenty of areas where people can follow guidelines as they see fit.
5. Set Up a Basket of Masks and Hand Sanitizers for Guests
Wow! I never thought PPE would be part of hosting my events, yet here we are. I love giving out small gift bags at my end of summer party, so I will simply replace those gifts with these PPE goodies.
Alcohol Consumption at Your End of Summer Party
With the stresses, anxieties, and restrictions this pandemic has created, people can be more inclined to consume alcohol. But PLEASE, DRINK RESPONSIBLY!
Consuming alcohol irresponsibly can be an added stress for party hosts and other guests alike.
Through the past year and a half, many people have replaced “adult only” entertaining with home get togethers with family and friends. If you are a parent or caregiver, your children are likely to be at these social gatherings as well. We are always role models for our children, but they may now be seeing our alcohol consumption more often.
If we consume too much and become a bit rowdy, they see that, too.
Not only will they begin to see that behavior as acceptable, but they may see the effects of alcohol on emotions as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. How we act, the messages we send, the morals we preach, and the values we uphold are crucial in influencing how our children will develop into adulthood. These little people absorb everything they see and hear. Especially in the early years when children are the most impressionable.
I always try to consider this idea when I make any choices, especially those choices involving drinking alcohol around my children. I want to ensure my decisions reflect how I want them to behave as adults.
And with our children around us more now during times when we might usually only be with adults, it is important to model responsible behavior.
4 Tips to Maintain a Responsible Relationship with Alcohol
Be mindful of your consumption, and if you are the host of a social gathering, it’s even more important to be mindful of your guests’ consumption. Stresses and tensions are high right now, and it is easier than ever to fall into a pattern of over-drinking.
One great piece of advice is to wait until your first glass is empty before getting more. You’ll be able to better track your consumption, rather than with “topping off” a drink.
These other great tips will help you maintain responsible alcohol consumption and keep everyone happy and enjoying your socially distanced end of summer party!
1. Designate one person to make and serve drinks measured with standard pours.
Monitor how much alcohol is being served per drink (and per person) and avoid a “free pour” scenario by having a responsible, designated bartender. “Free pour” is when everyone helps themselves and can pour an unmeasured amount of alcohol. The ideal drink would consist of a standard pour, meaning 1.5 ounces of a distilled spirit, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
While some guests may be able to effectively control their consumption on their own, free pour is not for everyone. Also, alcohol does affect men and women differently, so keep that idea in mind. To learn more about how alcohol affects you individually, Responsibility.org provides a cool tool, called The Virtual Bar. Users can input their weight, gender, drink, and food to learn their personal blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
2. Serve a fun cocktail pre-measured with standard pours.
A themed drink is always fun! And I love to create a sign in front of the glasses describing the cocktail I’m serving. My guests always love knowing exactly what is in the glass.
A Bluegrass Belle is a delicious cocktail, perfect for summertime BBQs!
1.5 oz Blueberry Vodka
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Mint Syrup
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin and muddle a mint sprig. Add ice, and shake vigorously. Strain shaker tin contents into a glass full of ice. Top with soda, and garnish with another mint sprig.
3. Create a “mocktail” for guests who may not want to consume alcohol.
Create a comfortable environment for all your guests by serving fun themed drinks that are non-alcoholic as well! Some guests will not want to drink and by including fun mocktails for summer, they will not feel added pressure.
I just LOVE this gorgeous Blue Lagoon Mocktail recipe for a patriotic themed Labor Day party:
1/4 cup Blue Curaçao Syrup
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
12 oz Lemon-Lime Soda
Lemon Slices (for garnish) – strawberry slices would also be a fun and festive garnish!
Sugar (to garnish the rim of the glass)
First, garnish the rim of a 15 oz glass with sugar. Add ice cubes, blue Curaçao syrup (non-alcoholic), and lemon juice, then slowly fill the rest with the lemon-lime soda. Stir gently, garnish, and enjoy!
4. #TalkEarly with your children about drinking responsibly.
Now is a great time to start (or continue) the conversation with your children about how to drink responsibly!
Responsibility.org is an excellent resource for conversation starters and how to approach the topic at all ages and stages. Talking with your kids about alcohol early and often really is the best way to help prevent underage and irresponsible drinking as your children grow and become more easily influenced by outside sources.
Remember, parents are the leading influence on their kids’ decisions to drink – or not to drink – alcohol.
Final Thoughts on Throwing a Safe Labor Day Party
I hope these ideas give you some great, easy, and safe options for hosting during a pandemic.
Spending time with friends and family is an important part of maintaining social and emotional health, wellness, and happiness. Seeing friends and family gives us a sense of normalcy and relieves stress.
We can absolutely continue to be social during a pandemic. Just be responsible by following and respecting safety and health guidelines.
Happy Labor Day, everyone!